Two weeks ago, we welcomed our new family member – she is a baby fox terrier (only 6 weeks old) and her name is Arfie. She is cute and sweet and lovable. Her mother was a pregnant rescue dog taken in by our vet, she had 2 puppies and each puppy and the mother all have new homes so the story has a happy ending indeed.
Here she is: – click on a photo for a bigger view.
Tony was going to surprise me by bringing her home without telling me but he could only keep the secret for about 30 seconds. We have been waiting for her for 2 weeks to get weaned from her mother so we are quite excited to pick her up.
She is now 8 weeks old and we have had her for 2 weeks – she is growing quickly.
The cats are not amused.
After 25 years, the Labour Party is now in power and all of the hootin’ and hollerin’ has died down. I do not follow Maltese politics at all, but what people were saying was that they were ready for a change. Sounds like the US in 2008…
The only thing I know for sure is that Labour has said that they will build the new power plant and lower the electricity bills, and we will be very happy if that happens. Of course they’re going to build it right near us further deteriorating our beautiful view…but I guess you can’t have everything.
And of course I hope that the country’s economy remains stable and strong.
That’s all I know of the politics of this election.
Today is Election Day in Malta, how logical to have it on a Saturday when everyone is off work. The Nationalist (conservative) Party has been in power for 25 years and the opinion polls are suggesting that Labour (liberal) may win this one. The results will be counted tomorrow and apparently everyone goes crazy. They drive around honking and hooting and causing general traffic and noise issues no matter who wins. In fact, just about every business and store is closed on Monday as they are expecting so much mayhem. It won’t be riots, it’s much more civilized than that but it should be crazy.
The Nationalist Party has done good things for Malta – Malta is the smallest and one of the most successful economies in the eurozone. It has strong tourism and financial sectors so unemployment is low, growth is strong, and the government has low debt. The economy has been very stable considering the upheaval of the world economy. However, one of the main issues is that Malta has some of the highest electricity prices in the world, by 25%! We just got our electric bill for the last 6 months and were completely shocked at how high it was. At least as high as we paid in the US if not more. Turns out there is alot of corruption in the power system which has aggravated the problem even further. Labour’s main election pledge has been that they will reduce electric prices, but this would entail a new power plant which would not exactly add to Malta’s ancient beauty.
I will let you know the outcome of the Election.
In all my decades of working, I never thought one could have too much free time. But I was wrong, without a job I have too much free time. Therefore, I decided to start slowly with some volunteer work, I didn’t want to be too rash. I have two small volunteer jobs – one is in an elderly residence home and one is for the SPCA. The elderly home is one morning a week – I take a computer, projector, screen, and speakers to the different wards and show the residents old movies. Right now I am showing two short black & white silent films plus a Laurel & Hardy compilation. Some of them laugh and love it, some of them just fall asleep. But it beats sitting in their rooms all day and they are happy to have something to do. The residents are so sweet, but unfortunately for me, they don’t really speak English so we can’t talk very much. Some of them are so thankful that I am there, others just watch me and don’t say anything. I would like to be their friend but it isn’t easy when you don’t speak the same language.
For the SPCA, I would love to work with the animals but I know that I would want to take them all home which isn’t feasible. And so, I volunteer at the used bookshop next door to the SPCA where all of the proceeds go to the animals. Instead of taking the animals home I take lots of books home. My two favorite things in life – animals and books. I’ve worked three times this past week but normally I will be doing just one day every other week (for now) and fill in for volunteers who cancel. Shortly it will be going to one morning per week.
I may (emphasis on may) decide to look for a paying job but as I said earlier, I don’t want to do anything too rash. 😀
Recently, we had a museum-hopping weekend. On Saturday, we visited The Inquisitor’s Palace which included the jail and the torture chambers (my, they were nasty people!) and The Malta Maritime Museum which is quite rich with artifacts, ship models, and actual boats. Given Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean, she has a very full maritime history as you can imagine.
The highlight of the weekend was the trip to Palazzo Falson on Sunday. The Palazzo is in the old walled city of Mdina which is a beautiful “silent city”. Mdina was the capital of Malta prior to the building of Valletta. As there are no cars and very little foot traffic, it has the nickname of “the silent city”. It is peaceful, quiet, and beautiful with high walls and magnificent views. It is the highest point in Malta and you can see the entire island from the walls.
The Palazzo was a private mansion owned by a collector which has been turned into a museum. The collections are vast and amazing for one single owner – art, artifacts, silver, Oriental rugs, weapons, medals, books, jewelry, he even had a very old chastity belt on display (it was appropriately included in the armory as it sure looks like a nasty weapon!). The rooms are decorated just like they were when he lived there.
We ended the day with an incredible meal in Mdina at a restaurant called Sharma – Arabian and Indian food, and a beautiful ambiance. The cuisines & restaurant décor are inspired from the ancient spice trading between India, through the Middle East leading to North Africa & the Mediterranean.
This is where different cultures influenced each other’s cuisines and customs until they became as we know them today.
The restaurant is housed in Casa Magazzini, an antique building used by the knights as stores for their ammunition. There is a large terrace with a wonderful view from the top of the bastions, this will be in operation as part of the restaurant from later on in 2012, although you can still go on the terrace now to enjoy the view.
Along with the ancient temples (see prior post dated June 4), the Maltese heritage contains another great mystery, the Cart Ruts. These are unique to the islands of Malta.
There are a number of pre-historic sites that have what appear to be parallel ruts (tracks) made by carts etched deep into the limestone, some up to two feet deep. The cart theory is weak though, as any attempt by a vehicle today to move through these tracks wouldn’t succeed as the vehicle would get stuck in the tracks. And, although all of the tracks are in sets of two, parallel to one another, they are of varying widths.
There is another theory that they were made by so called ‘slide cars’ towed by animals to transport goods. Yet, this isn’t really feasible either as dragging a slide car over the coralline limestone of the island would hardly make a scratch, much less a rut, even if it was dragged for years. However, it is possible that at the time, the hills were covered in soil, not limestone, and ruts could have been carved into soil.
It is possible that these carts were wheeled yet alternatively, they could have been built before the invention of the wheel. This is unknown as there is no way of dating them. And, they would have had to have very high axles to make ruts up to 2 feet deep.
What were these tracks made from and what were they used for? Many of them criss cross each other suggesting something like a railway junction leading experts to believe that this was some sort of transportation system.
Adding to the enigma of these tracks, many of them run off the edge of cliffs. ?? Some are even found on the sea floor.
When you come to visit us, you can see them yourself and try to unravel this mystery.
Our first winter in Malta. Not what we expected. It’s in the high 50’s but it doesn’t feel that warm. It’s a wet cold, quite humid, and gale force winds for days on end. The chill goes right into your bones. Plus, remember that houses in Malta do not have central heating. Unfortunately, the limestone that the houses and other buildings are constructed of hold in the cold air in winter and the hot air in summer. 😐
It actually feels colder inside the buildings than it does outside. The space heaters that we have are gas with pilot lights, so we need to be extremely careful when using them and cannot leave them on overnight.
Malta is the only land between Africa and Europe in this section of the Mediterranean, so as the winds blow from any direction our little rock is the only place for the wind to go. Same with the thunderstorms which we are getting nearly every day now that it’s winter. And the storms are violent storms – it’s not a steady rain but bursts of bucket-falls of rain. Accompanied by very loud thunder and strong lightning.
Granted, this is nothing like it was in Connecticut so I don’t expect any of you snow bunnies to feel any compassion about this but remember, you have fireplaces and central heat! We need to go sit in the car to get warm…
The Manoel Theatre (Teatru Manoel) started its 2012/2013 season last month. Named after a Grand Master of course, (Antonio Manoel de Vilhena) it is a beautiful example of baroque architecture and one of the oldest working theatres in the world. It was built in 1731 which makes it older than my country! It is in the heart of Valletta and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
To date, we have seen two productions – Calendar Girls and The Ardeo Quartet.
Calendar Girls is a play about a group of middle aged English women who pose nude for a calendar to raise money for hospice. The nude photos are black & white artistic shots (“we will be nude, not naked!”) and the play is based on a true story.
The Maltese actresses also made their own calendar to raise money for hospice. The director was concerned that she wouldn’t be able to find 6 actresses on the small island of Malta (where everyone knows everyone else) willing to bare all. (Imagine seeing your child’s kindergarden teacher nude on the stage!) She was very pleased to find 28 women who auditioned for the play.
The Ardeo Quartet is a beautiful French chamber music ensemble. They are a string quartet of 2 violins, viola, and cello with the most expressive musicians I have ever seen. They performed an evening of Reicha, Debussey, and Ravel that was incredibly moving. Look them up on youtube, you will be quite amazed.
Theatre performances are so affordable here
(€20 – €25 euros, we’re not in New York anymore!) that anyone can afford to see as many of the productions as they choose. How wonderful to make live performances widely available to all.
The Ardeo Quartet
In honor of today’s American election, I thought a brief description of Maltese elections might interest you.
Elections take place in Malta once every five years. Unlike in America where election day is a specific day, in Malta the Prime Minister gets to decide when the election will be held. It is held sometime prior to the 3 months following the first sitting of the current government. The current/next election must be held by August 10, 2013.
In the US, the Presidential election is the selection of a specific person. In Malta, the election is of the party. The Members of the House of Representatives are elected and the party that wins the most seats becomes the ruling party. The President is then appointed by the House of Representatives and, as he is basically a figurehead, he then appoints a Prime Minister who is the head of government.
Interestingly, just as in America, the population is divided 50/50 between the two parties so there will be a close race in Malta just as is happening in the US. The two parties are Nationalist and Labour, and the dividing line is the north (Nationalist) versus the south (Labour). The Nationalist Party has currently been in power for 25 years and many people are ready for a change.
The Maltese are very intrigued by America and our friends frequently ask us how the political system works in America as they find it fascinating.
Along with you, we are anxiously awaiting the outcome of today’s US election.
I will keep you posted on the Maltese election as it happens.
And, please remember to vote today.
Well, let’s just say we’re not in Italy…
The food in Malta is not that exciting. The main specialty is rabbit and I could never eat a bunny.
However, the food from the grocery store is interesting. Preservatives are not used so everything is very fresh. This means that you need to shop frequently as most food items last for only a couple of days. The Maltese bread, which is to die for, lasts for a day. Fruits and vegetables last for only a few days. And, they only sell what’s in season as it’s all local. No blueberries imported from Chile or oranges from Florida like we had in Connecticut. Therefore, you can’t get everything all of the time. There are many greengrocers that sell their produce from trucks which is a nice way to shop.
The meat tastes different as it’s not preserved, it tastes more gamy, more meat-like. Not being a meat lover I I’m not too fond of the meat.
Some of the specialties that are sold everywhere are pastizzies (flaky little tart like pastries filled with cheese or ham or bacon & egg), fish and chips (yummy), fresh fish, pasta, and pizza.
Pizzas have unusual toppings – bacon & egg, tuna fish, peas, artichoke hearts, and hot dogs. Sometimes you get it all on one pizza.
There are locally made wines but they aren’t as good as the Italian or French wines, however, they are very inexpensive as the vineyards are right around the corner. No shipping and no import tax. Only about €3 a bottle.